Black Swan is the dance movie of the year (kudos to those PABallet dancers in the cast) but there was actually another that was just as interesting called Dancing Across Borders. It is the inspiring documentary about Sy Sar who became the first Cambodian male to dance professionally in a classical ballet company in the West. His journey from a farming life in Cambodia to the International Ballet stage is as improbable as Russian dancers defecting from the USSR in the 60s.
Director Anne Bass spotted him in a small community dance troupe while she was visiting Angkor Wat. Sar had such a luminous stage presence and natural facility, she couldn’t stop thinking about him. Bass had a background in dance and connections at New York City Ballet.
Bass arranged for his training at New York City Ballet’s School of American Dance Olga Kostritzky master Russian classical coach. Sy didn’t know English or ballet vocabulary and also had to adjust to the culture shock living in New York. Many of his tutors never really believing he could make up for all of the lost time to be a professional ballet dancer. He proved them wrong and was hired at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle under Boal‘s guidance.
Bass captures the arresting beauty of Cambodia and she also make the dance studio visually interesting. Moving interviews with Sar’s parents, classmates and teachers and equally stirring stories of Cambodia’s reclaiming its cultural history from the ravages of life after the repressive Khmer Rouge. This film is an inspiring portrait of the power of art and a young man’s determination to change his life.